irritated spam victims
by Alan Zisman (c) 2002 First published
in Business in Vancouver
, Issue #662 July 2-8, 2002, High Tech Office column
More than a few BIV readers have written to
about UCE: unsolicited commercial e-mails, better known as spam.
Sharolyn Harvey, of Striker Capital Corp.
"After numerous attempts to have my e-mail address removed, the
still keeps sending me unsolicited investment e-mail. What are my
I've threatened to go to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
that didn't work. I've called and left messages."
Spam is not just an annoyance, it costs all of us.
include the time spent, both in wading through an inbox stuffed with
mail and (especially for users with dial-up Internet accounts) the time
spent downloading these messages.
As well, by requiring extra bandwidth and added
storage on your employer or Internet provider's servers, it adds to the
cost of providing Internet service.
Spam increased 500 per cent in 2001, about 700 junk
per person, with each message costing an estimated $1 in lost
And as Harvey discovered, requesting to have an e-mail address removed
a spam list too often doesn't work. In fact, by verifying that you are
receiving the junk mail, it may get you more spam.
A U.S. law requiring a mailing-list removal mechanism
e-mail messages was never enacted. While the senders of most spam are
in North America, they often use servers located in other countries,
government regulation difficult to enforce.
The clichÈ is that most spam offers
While I receive my share of messages promising pictures of teenagers or
offering to enlarge parts of my body, more of the spam that comes my
way is about health,
privacy, business or investment services. I get offers to find out
about anybody or to earn $100,000 a year at home using my computer.
ironically, I receive a steady stream of messages offering to sell me
with millions of e-mail addresses so I can send out my own spam.
Recipients of spam are not entirely powerless,
however. In Harvey's case, if she simply doesn't want to be bothered
with repeated messages from a single sender, she can use the filters
(or "rules") built into most e-mail software. It's not difficult to set
up a filter to send any messages received from a specified address
directly to the trash. She would still be receiving these messages, but
she needn't be aware of them.
Many firms and Internet service providers are
becoming more effective
at filtering out spam, using services such as Brightmail or the Mail Abuse Prevention System
As well, a new breed of software offers users more
their desktops. PC users can choose between McAfee SpamKiller
($60), SpamEater Pro ($38)
users may check out Spamfire
($45). These work in similar ways. Each uses a complex and upgradeable
set of filters to log into your e-mail accounts, and provide you with a
potential spam before you download your mail. As in your e-mail
software, you can read, save, or delete messages. Carefully check these
lists; you may
find them containing e-mailings from lists to which you have chosen to
Set the program's filters to ignore such messages.
When you've identified unwanted messages, you can set
the software to permanently block mail from their return addresses. As
well, the programs let users fight back. Each can automatically send a
complaint letter, not to the spammer, but to the spammer's service
As well, a bogus no-such-address error message can be
the server, making the spammer think that your e-mail address doesn't
If, even with your employer or Internet provider
your mail, you feel like you're getting too much spam, give one of